Tag Archives: Department of Agriculture

Pesticide Contamination in the Region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

Muck from the SLR/IRL region. Public photo.
Muck from the SLR/IRL region. Muck holds pesticides and other chemical residue. Public photo.

When I got up this morning, I saw a Facebook post by Delta Gamma sorority sister, Katie Schwader. Katie, who runs a page entitled “Love Your Neighbor,” had posted: “As September wraps up, I encourage all to join the Support Peyton McCaughey Facebook page. ” (https://www.facebook.com/PeytonRecovery?fref=ts)

Most of us are familiar with the tragic story…

Peyton McCaughey…the 10-year-old Martin County, Palm City boy who lost 90 percent of his motor skills after exposure to chemicals and pesticides used to fumigate his family’s home for termites. (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/family-alleges-pest-fumigation-left-boy-severely-injured/story?id=33539389)

According to TC Palm reporter Paul Ivice: “...the three-bedroom house was fumigated for termites by Terminix in August 2014, but the termites returned. “Under the direction of Terminix, the home was re-tented and fumigated” on Aug. 14 by Sunland…Zythor was used..Sunland didn’t use the proper dosage…and “didn’t properly ventilate what was pumped into the home to kill the termites…”

Now this 10 year old child is “not able to walk, or even lift his own head,” according to Ed Gribben Jr., the brother of mother and Martin County Hight School assistant principal, Lori Ann McCaughey. 

Is there any greater nightmare than this? I cannot imagine…We all must support this family.

Family photo of Peyton Mc Caughey as shared on the Facebook page for his families' fundraiser.
Family photo of Peyton Mc Caughey as shared on the Facebook page for his families’ fundraiser.

Fundraiser this weekend: (https://www.facebook.com/events/563020633835889/)

 

Ten Mile Creek sits in a passive operating state.
An altered Ten Mile Creek watershed… (JTL 2014)

Chemicals and pesticides are very dangerous. And many of them are lurking in our river…

Image from USGA DEP report, 2003.
Image from USGA DEP report SLR pesticide contamination, 2003.
Cover of USGS/DEP Report
Cover of USGS/DEP Report, 2003.

High levels of pesticides also exist in areas of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and many of us are not even aware of this. Most of the chemicals end up in the sediment or “muck” at the bottom of the river, so even if issues of contamination are addressed, the river bottom remains poisonous.

The following is an excerpt from a the “Water Resources Investigations Report Occurrence and Distribution of Pesticides in the St Lucie River Watershed” prepared by A.C. Lietz, of the US Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in 2003. I wonder how much has changed in just over ten years? I could not find a follow-up report.

An excerpt reads:

“The St. Lucie River watershed is a valuable estuarine eco- system and resource in south- central Florida. The watershed has undergone extensive changes over the last century because of anthropogenic activities. These activities have resulted in a complex urban and agricultural drainage network that facilitates the transport of contaminants, including pesticides, to the primary canals and then to the estuary. Historical data indicate that aquatic life criteria for selected pesticides have been exceeded. To address this concern, a reconnaissance was conducted to assess the occurrence and distribution of selected pesticides within the
St. Lucie River watershed.” –A.C. Lietz, USGA, 2003

Full report: (http://fl.water.usgs.gov/PDF_files/wri02_4304_lietz.pdf)

If you take a look at this write-up, you will see the pesticide contamination and locations  listed, and the “BMPs,” Best Management Practices, recommended to correct the situation. These pesticides have killed and distorted many fish and other species that used to live at the bottom of this area of the river. As the river bottom remains full of chemicals and grasses can’t grow, many animals and fish never came back. Some that remain have been reported sick and malformed.

The second publication we should all be familiar with is the 1995 DEP report “Pesticide Contamination in 10 Mile Creek” by Gregory A. Graves and Douglas G. Stone. This report is about the agricultural contamination of Ten Mile Creek, the headwaters of the north fork of the St Lucie River, in St Lucie County—- this creek runs south into Martin County. Believe it or not, the North Fork of the St Lucie River is  a state designated “aquatic preserve.”

An aquatic preserve! Sometimes things just don’t make sense, do they?

Conclusion from report:

” Fourteen separate pesticides were detected in the water and sediment of Ten Mile Creek, several at concentrations exceeding applicable water quality standards. Some of these concentrations appear to be the highest found anywhere in Florida surface waters (Storet). ….The true scope of the adverse impact upon the resident biota may be underestimated due to unobserved events. Ten Mile Creek is classified by the State of Florida as Class III waters. As such, these waters are presumed suitable for “recreation, propagation. (FAC 62-302.530). The contamination and resultant biological impairment documented constitutes a loss of Class III function for Ten Mile Creek waters.”

The full report is here:
(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/tenmile_creek.pdf)

 

How was the situation resolved? The report states:

“Several State of Florida biological and chemical water quality standards were violated. Recommendations include application of best management practices (BMP), review of pesticide use within the basin, regional water management and expanded study of the implications of pesticides entering the North Fork St .Lucie River OFW. (Outstanding Florida Waters). A cooperative panel including local agricultural concerns is recommended to resolve this situation with minimal conflict.”

That’s nice they resolved this terrible situation with “minimal conflict,”but I do hope the situation has been resolved; I would like to get my hands on a follow-up report that is easy to access on-line…

 

Harmful Algal Blooms, (HABs), St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area/ (Photo courtesy of Paul Shindel.
August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area. (Photo courtesy of Paul Shindel.

Does the above photo make your stomach turn? What is it?

It is a HAB or Harmful Algae Bloom, taken four days ago, right here in Martin County.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “over the past century, alterations of land use and acceleration in the rate of cultural eutrophication have led to widespread increases in harmful algal blooms in Florida, including toxin-producing species.”

First,  what is “eutrophication” and why is it “cultural”?

Eutrophication is is when a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as synthetic phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and a “bloom.” These algae blooms can be toxic.

“Cultural means “created by humans.”

So what are we doing about this especially since “we” caused it?

In 1997 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection formed a Task Force on Harmful Algae Blooms and in 1999 they produced a scientific document, a White Paper: HARMFUL ALGAE BLOOMS, (http://myfwc.com/media/202228/HAB_whitepaper2006_UPDATE.pdfIt is extensive. 

In my opinion, as usual, our state governors and legislatures did not pay significant attention to these studies, and failed to implement policies that would help overcome this crisis issue. How many of them even read the report?

Case in point, recently, it was the local governments and local residents of the towns, cities and counties along the west and east coasts of Florida who advocated and achieved strong fertilizer ordinances not allowing fertilizer use during the rainy season while the state continues to fight and support less restrictive rules.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife website there are four ongoing studies regarding HABs in Florida: (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/research/scientific-products/)

1. Time-Series Sampling in Pinellas and Manatee Counties) Researchers conduct detailed sampling to better understand when, where and under what conditions harmful algal blooms form.

2. Tampa Bay Monitoring Program Researchers monitor 10 sites in Old Tampa Bay for the presence of, or conditions favorable to, harmful algal blooms.

3. Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program
Encouraging  people to learn about the program and learn how to become volunteers, collecting water samples around the state to help scientists monitor the Florida red tide.

4. Monitoring Toxic Algae Species and Shellfish in the Indian River Lagoon (2002-present)
Periodic testing of water samples and clams provides an early warning of bloom occurrences and shellfish toxicity and minimizes the risk of human exposure to saxitoxins.

Those are great present HAB programs, so why don’t we hear more about them and why don’t they include Lake Okeechobee, obviously the toxic algae is there as well…

Here at home, when the gates of S-308 open from Lake Okeechobee to the C-44 canal that is connected to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the algae in the photo above goes directly into the our river system.

Google Earth image of S-308, structure at Lake Okeechobee that opens to the C-44 canal where above photo was taken. This area always has some spill through the gates. Look at the agriculture right up to the lake...
Google Earth image of S-308, structure at Lake Okeechobee that opens to the C-44 canal where above photo was taken. This area always has some spill through the gates. Note the agriculture lands right up to the C-44 canal…

It is 2014. The state has been studying this problem since 1997. They do not have all the answers but we do know by now that HABs are fed by cultural eutrophication due to clearing of land that can no longer clean water on its way to estuaries, rivers and lakes; building of towns and cities that create concrete and asphalt barriers to water reabsorption;  fertilizer and other runoff;  oil/chemicals from thousands of miles of highway and roads;  septic effluent; canals and redirection of water such as Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee; agriculture’s heavy destruction of native lands and the fertilizer and chemical runoff associated with their business, unregulated golf courses fertilizer run off and re-use of high nutrient water resources….it’s endless.

It is said that “ignorance is bliss,” well the state of Florida doesn’t have that luxury anymore.

Blue Green Algae is as ancient as the beginnings of our planet...

Blue Green Algae. (Public photo.)

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USDA HABs: (http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0209332-harmful-algal-blooms.html)

FWC HABs: (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/general/harmful-algal-bloom/)